Insert something witty and backpacker knowledge-worthy here. You’re here to read this (or at least jump to the score) because you’re interested in the album and the artist. Yeah, she’s the First Lady of the Jamla crew. Yeah, she honed her chops working with (and establishing) some of your favorite underground acts. Yeah, she’s totally different than the current emcee’s you hear about in the game. Now that we got that all out the way, let’s get to what we all came here for. To get a better look at The Idea of Beautiful by Rapsody.
1. Motivation Featuring Big Rube (of the Dungeon Family); Produced by Khrysis
Mellow tempo combined with Big Rube dropping a verse confirm that this is a updated version of “Git Up, Git Out” by OutKast (later further solidified by reference to the song in the intro ad-libs). Rapsody doesn’t sit back and expect you to be enchanted by the groove, she gets on the mic and drops some dope lyrics and content, nevermind the hating on Madden all day. The hook “wake yo ass up” isn’t just about literally waking up and being about your business, but about waking up as in being aware of what’s going on and making positive changes. Love that positivity in Hip-Hop always.
2. How Does It Feel Featuring Rocki Evans; Produced by Khrysis
This heartfelt rap feels like a homage to “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Speaking on the war and loved ones “protecting” us, Treyvon Martin, and the overwhelming need for prayer and peace in our world. I love the social commentary and the relatability of this song. She does a great job of simplifying emotion to paint a picture that is no parts watered down or pedestrian. Hell, I have nobody over there fighting but I feel this song all the same. If you have no soul, then yeah, maybe you can’t rock with this. Khrysis is dope, as usual and Rocki Evans’ vocals are the perfect compliment to the bleeding pen on this one.
3. Precious Wings Produced by Eric G
Sticking with what seems to be a theme thus far, “Precious Wings” is an updated version of “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common. The track is fantastic and seamless in relation to the previous songs considering that it’s another producer. Calling back images from Lauryn and the community with girls “leading with they thighs” Rapsody really illustrates the conflict and struggle that Hip-Hop deals with even to this day. The song sounds like a ballad to Hip-Hop, not meant to be a sharp criticism but more a hope for it’s recovery and return to values and purity. You could even go as far as to say that she hints that it is recovering and becoming something new…something more true to what it used to be.
4. Believe Me Produced by 9th Wonder
We get more pronounced drums on this track and with 9th Wonder on the boards, you know that means no lack of soul at all. Another production change, another dope job at matching and keeping the feel going. This song is about being real, not about the image that most portray. Rapsody speaks on putting out dope product but netting regular folks cash, being almost allergic to fakers, and being regarded as one of the lyrical Queens by those that have heard her, but not having the riches that should come with such. There is a tip of the cap to L-Boogie on the hook and a mention on the song, Rapsody is letting us know that everything isn’t what it may seem, especially to those of us that aren’t in the business. I can respect this song and her for putting it on wax. It’s one of my favorites on the album.
5. Non-Fiction Featuring Raheem DeVaughn & Ab-Soul; Produced by 9th Wonder
This may be the first song that will make you break ya neck on the album. We get a more uptempo track from 9th without sacrificing soul. Speaking of soul, Ab-Soul graces the album here and spits some heat, if you’re not hip to him, you need to step ya game up. Rapsody is a student of the game and she refused to be outdone on her own track. I think if anyone asked me could she spit, this is the verse I’d point them to.
The modern day saints of our stories
New torch bearers, we the children like Corey
Gunz of the ones that ran Nation of Millions and watched Mike in Delores
Used to ride to Nore, now the people inquiry
About the 5’3” emcee with ovaries
Got a bite on the mic like the likes of ol’ Lauryn
Hip-hop, score gotta settle it’s the flip flop
Back to when cats rolled Lexus like wrist watch
Elbow out the door, bumpin’ Nas ’til the speaks pop
Couldn’t see me eye to eye, keep pumpin’ your Reeboks
Rattle rear views, clear view, I don’t fear you or you
You keep an ear to the streets, too, to hear true I been in the booth, yea killin’ on the daily
Jamla representer another baby of the 80’s
Katy Perry, I grew up on Mary
The flow varies cause I studied those old from the erry
Of the gold, why I shine like that find it scary
The game over, I kill wack emcees, all buried
It’s the real
6. The Drums Featuring Heather Victoria; Produced by 9th Wonder
Title suggests it and 9th provides it, more kick from the drums on the track. Some may say that the title suggests that this is more of a boom-bap rap display style song, but they’d be wrong. This song is about Raspody’s dedication to her craft and how she allows herself to channel her life and thoughts into the music and escape to the drums. Check the shit she spits on this one, dope lyrics.
Don’t over think what you think that they thinking
Am I too lyrical? Is it too simple? I’m sinking
Out of the zone, my attitude now fuck what you think
About to go all the way in, I give a damn about your minks
Defer from yo furs and the money
If the shrinks come with the deals that you ink
That niggas sign without a blink
Don’t bond with me well, like males in all pink
Strong minded, frail shit, the lyrical Darlene
It was never all rosie, yo these niggas all goldies
They slave to the oldies, the presidents, just thinks
This real life rap, money, power, there’s nothing else
A lot of sex, drug usage and rapping about wealth
Ain’t not balance in this system no more
We ain’t well
Ain’t a rapper on the radio wit stories to tell Hip Hop never died, yo
The radio failed
Now the powers with the people
Wonder if they can tell
Just some change for your thoughts
Like those in the well
Yo, I kick for you all and take it back for a spell
7. Kinda Love Featuring Nomsa Mazwai; Produced by 9th Wonder
This may be the first stumble on the album. Y’all know about my Song 7 Theory by now so I expected something epic here. This song isn’t bad, but it definitely seems out of sequence after the last song. Nomsa sings along sounding like Estelle providing some soul to match the keys and dance along with the beat. I enjoy the song, but like I said, the placement here just seems really off.
8. Celebrate Produced by E. Jones
This is another song that I don’t really think fits here. To be honest, I don’t know that this song really fits the album. It feels more like a filler track penned over some ultra soulful horns and throwback bassline. It’s not a skip, but this one could have been left off the album. You see the title so you know what’s intended, but there isn’t much more to it than that.
9. Destiny Produced by Khrysis
“Destiny” has a really stripped down, simple feel that really gives Rapsody a chance to shine lyrically. Speaking directly to her reverence for Jay (Hova) and what he means to the game, she pens what sounds ultimately like a dedication to his legacy as well as her upcoming one. It’s really dope to hear her interweave her appreciation with her own determination without missing a beat. This isn’t a mistake, she’s speaking to her own greatness and referencing the past and it’s executed quite nicely.
10. Good Good Love Featuring BJ The Chicago Kid; Produced by 9th Wonder
Once again Rapsody dares to be human and express emotion in Hip-Hop. Once again, it’s dope. She takes us through a failed relationship including the “cyber stalking”, back and forth motions of emotion, and pain and unrest that comes with relationships that seem to go the wrong way. I’d be inclined to say this is my favorite song on the album, but not by much. There are a lot of dope songs on this one, but I think the production and BJ’s singing give this a slight edge.
11. In The Town Featuring Nomsa Mazwai; Produced by 9th Wonder
I like to think of “In The Town” as an updated more detailed version of “Brenda’s Got A Baby” by Tupac. It’s dope that the emcee that earlier quipped that “nobody on the radio has any stories to tell” proves that she is more than good at doing just that. Just like the majority of the album, this song drips soul and technique from track to pen and mood to method. It took me a minute to get over the way the hook is done on this song, but once I did, I can’t imagine it any other way.
12. Round Table Discussion Featuring Mac Miller & The Cool Kids; Produced by 9th Wonder
As enjoyable as the concept (4 emcees taking turns over the mic) is, it’s actually one of the low points on the album. You know 9th is already providing some soulful chill type music, but then everyone turns some pedestrian rhymes just matching syllables but lacking substance. I guess every once in a while, you gotta just spit, but Rapsody has layered this album some amazingly dope lines to have this song included. I think Mac’s best line was his ad-lib about getting Phonte to write him an intro.
13. The Cards Featuring Big Remo; Produced by 9th Wonder
Big Remo attacks this track like he has something to prove. He spits his personal story about playing the cards he was dealt in life complete with a moms not speaking to him after putting him out the house. Stepping up to the challenge and refusing to be bested lyrically once again, Rapsody shreds yet another opportunity. Dope lines, ample bass and some scratching for good measure make this song feel classically good. It also makes the previous song sound that much worse.
14. Come Home Featuring Rocki Evans; Produced by Khrysis
The rapping on this song doesn’t kick in until about the minute mark which makes this song actually only one verse long. Rapsody drops a quick one on us about a tumultuous relationship who’s pain is only matched by that of being away from the same person that “caused” the angst. Sometimes less is more and this song is an example of that.
15. When I Have You Featuring Nomsa Mozwai; Produced by 9th Wonder
9th provides some keys for Rapsody to drop this dedication to the supporters. She speaks about sleepin’ on couches, fake friends, forgiving bosses, strong family members, and even unfortunate events that made her who she is today. Once again, there’s nothing to dislike about this song, it’s another great moment on the album.
*song 16 is a remix of “BelieveMe”*
At the end of the album a few things are pretty obvious. Rapsody is a dope lyricist, complete in everyway to her male counterparts, beyond capable of making strong songs complete with storytelling and wit. She is 100% authentic and no parts gimmick. This has to be the only reason that she’s not garnering much bigger buzz than she has. While other emcees/rappers are content to sit on packaging, bloated budgets and co-signs, Rapsody’s style and skill are certainly more fit for the balance of the Golden Era than the brainwashed mainstream that moves the money currently. It’s also obvious that she’s a student of the game. Some may say I’m reaching with the various inspirations I noted throughout the album, but I’d say they are wrong. She makes mention of the things that shaped her, The Golden Era, Eminem’s stories, Lauryn’s life and an abundance of music of a more authentic era. She’s brutally aware of the thankless commercial side of the game but is steadfast in honoring and carrying the torch of a culture that meant more to her than a paycheck. Lastly it’s unquestionable that she is a female (not that there was any doubt but hear me out). Hip-Hop is heavy handed machismo and it screams as much from it’s homophobic persona to the lack of a female voice that isn’t accompanied by something tight, revealing, and all stops in between. We all know females are emotional so the heartfelt songs on this album are to be expected, and are also part of the aversion from males to female rap songs. However, in a time where we have more rappers singing and wearing skinny jeans and bright colors, the emotions here are sincere, and for that, I’ll thank HER now. This isn’t an album crying over lost love as much as it is a chronicle of situations, mostly all ending with a resolve in trying harder and doing more. I said females are emotional, but they are also strong. Rapsody’s album is an open letter to Hip Hop told from the vantage point of an incredibly talented emcee completely at ease with being herself. If that means she’s emotional, fine. If that means she’s bragging, fine. If that means that she’s critical and even angry at the career she loves, fine. All of those things make people and this album Beautiful. What she’s not fine with is being weak…and no man OR woman should be fine with that.
She’s truthful from the moment I pressed play only being wrong twice the entire album. One, she said “those with opinions don’t support you on iTunes”. Well, I supported. The other thing she said that wasn’t factual was “I wasn’t blessed with the money so my movement isn’t felt”. Check her mentions on twitter. Folks aren’t singing your praises because it’s fun, they are doing so because they are being just as honest as you were with this album.